Happy New Year!

coopers letters from aaronHappy New Year!  I hope that this break and the dawning of 2019 have been great for you and your family and that you have found the time in these past two weeks to rest, rejuvenate, and ready yourselves for a 2019 filled with inspiration, learning, and growth.

After spending the first week here hosting some extended family and enjoying time together in New Canaan, my family and I spent the second week up in the Adirondacks where we also visit in the summer.  Our hope was to ski, snowshoe, ice skate, and generally spend as much time as possible outside enjoying winter. The weather, unfortunately, did not cooperate.  The heavy rains we had here in New Canaan on the last two Fridays of December melted all the snow up there as well, and much of the skiing (downhill and especially cross country) was impacted significantly.  The warm weather also melted the ice at the local rink – which, due to the normal winter temperatures, is actually just a flooded group of basketball courts.  The “rink” had spots of blacktop scattered throughout it and was unusable.  During the week, it rained several more times as well.  Yet, as I am sure we all do in situations like these, we adapted.  After one day of heavy rain, it got cold, and we discovered a flooded field nearby that had frozen.  We ended up having many great pickup “pond” hockey games there in and around sticks poking up through the ice.  Since skiing was so poor, we adapted and decided to do more hiking than we had planned, including a first mountaintop for our puppy, Baxter.  Appropriately, it was also his namesake, Baxter Mountain, that we hiked.  I ran a little bit more than planned, and we did finally get one mediocre day of cross country skiing in when it snowed three inches towards the end of our week.  Driving back last Friday, we all commented that though the vacation had not gone as hoped or planned, we were all happy that we made the most of it.

Reflecting back on our time these past two weeks, I thought of NCCS’s “mission skills” of flexibility and resilience.  While anyone would make the slight changes to their plans based on the weather during an outdoor vacation that we did, the flexibility and resilience that we work to cultivate in our students is much more important and challenging.  As a result, it also has a much greater impact on them and their futures.  During their time at NCCS, students practice these skills in myriad ways.  They learn to work together and incorporate others’ opinions in everything from blocks in Thacher to planning a Lord of the Flies mock trial in Stevens.  They learn to accept feedback and grow in every class every day.  They learn to play through a missed note or a missed line in their performing arts and to deal with a tough loss or a bad game on the playing field.  And at the end of their journey here, they graduate knowing themselves and how they learn and where their interests lie.  They leave knowing how to work with others and impact the groups with which they work.  They are able to both have conviction around their thoughts and the comfort with ambiguity to consider others’ opinions at the same time.  And they leave knowing how to learn from failure and to grow from mistakes.  In short, our students graduate with all the skills they need to be successful in high school, college and beyond.  So, as we begin 2019, I feel great optimism in knowing that we are nurturing in our students the skills and mindsets that will impact their future success and fulfillment and that that is much more important than the simple act of going hiking rather than skiing when a winter vacation turns out to be too warm.   Here’s to a great New Year; I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

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